Pearls & Vodka

But for the Grace of God…

Grace upon grace.

This morning our family attended Ecclesia Church here in Houston.

It was our first time visiting, and I would have to say we are “hooked.”

The husband of one of my best friends from high school is on staff at Ecclesia and I’ve noticed for quite awhile on social media the “communal” type bonds they have through this church. And we found out for ourselves today that it’s authentic. And that’s so refreshing.

This isn’t an advertisement for Ecclesia, but if you are in the area, you should check it out.

The Prodigal Son: a story of Grace

The sermon today was delivered by the father of one of the pastors and he spoke on the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15.

Ed Seay, the speaker, told the story as most who are familiar with it have remembered, the son left home and returned.

Today, maybe it was just my season of life, maybe it was the anointing on Ed, and maybe it was just simply and beautifully, God, I grasped more of the story than I’ve ever taken away from it.

Sure, I’ve always recognized the beauty of the reconciliation of the father and the son. I’ve always made the connection of the father so quickly and unequivocally forgiving his son, and celebrating his return. But Luke 15 starts by talking about how this man had “two sons” I know I’ve read the entire passage countless times before, but today it struck a different chord with me.

The story doesn’t end with the prodigal son coming home and the father throwing a party. It continues with the older brother being angry with his father for lavishing such treasures on his son who had returned. The older son reminds his father that he has never left his dad, he’s never abandoned him, he’s always stayed there, tending the sheep and following all the rules. And yet, he admonishes his dad by reminding him that he’s never once even offered a tiny goat for his older son and his friends to enjoy at a party.

Ed made the connection of the “religious” among us being reflected in the life of the older brother.

I’m not religious, but I am spiritual

In a conversation this week a friend said to me, “I’m not religious, but I am spiritual.” And I totally connect to that. For quite a while now I’ve been sick of the “religious” among us. I get so exhausted by the rules, the rigidity and the righteousness of some. And I’m sure they get equally exhausted with my lack thereof. I fully accept that it is a two-way street.

When you grow up in church, specifically a Southern Baptist Church of the 80s and 90s, I think you become consumed with the do’s and don’ts. Don’t drink, don’t dance, don’t listen to secular music, do attend church every time the doors are open, do buy all the Christian music, do read your Bible and by all means, do tithe. It’s exhausting. And don’t get me wrong, I get the place these messages are coming from, and I do believe there is some goodness there and I know without a doubt there are some good people in almost every church, with good intentions and good hearts.

And that exhausting lifestyle is the same lifestyle that the oldest son in the parable of Luke 15 lived. He followed the do’s and don’ts. Do stay with your father, don’t leave, do the work, don’t abandon the chores. And he’s bitter when his younger brother leaves, then returns, and is quickly celebrated with no thought to the rules he broke. The same can be said of the “religious.”

Ed mentioned a quote by a pastor I follow in NYC named Tim Keller. Keller once said, “The bad son was lost in his badness and the good son was lost in his goodness.” And isn’t that really the truth for all of us? We are all lost in our own lives, so consumed with whatever we are living out. Ed reminded us in his sermon that we aren’t called to place blame on anyone. We are called to free the trapped, stop the bleeding of the wounded and encourage those around us.

But for the Grace of God, I’m not trying to cross the border

Ed went there, he brought up the immigration crisis. Politics and religion can be dicey, but he went all in, boldly and full of grace, and his words resonated with us. The older brother from the parable of the prodigal son would say those crossing the border here in Texas from the south are breaking the law. Hard stop. End of the story. But the father in the parable would welcome them in, with open arms, and give them the things they need to survive.

And some today would argue, “well we don’t need open borders, they broke the law!” And if you’ve read my blog at all, you know I don’t support open borders and I support law and order. But then he said where my heart has been since this crisis began unfolding in the media, “but for the grace of God” we are on this side of the border. Families are trying to get their children to safety. “But for the grace of God” it’s not me trying to get my little boy to safety.

That analogy really drove home the new concepts I was grasping from a parable I’ve heard hundreds of times.

A simple challenge

And so today, my challenge to you is simple, look at your life, look at your actions, your words, your thoughts, and your deeds, which brother are you portraying to the world?

And does anything in your life reflect the father who welcomed the son home, much like our Heavenly Father, who always has His arms open to us?

…Be kind to one another…

Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash